Marriage

Mark 10v01-12, “God’s Plan for Marriage”

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Introduction

1456053183_thumb.pngWhat does it mean to follow Jesus? What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? What does it mean to be a Christian? And what does a Christian marriage look like?

We’ve been walking with Jesus through the Gospel According to Mark.

  • We’ve seen him heal every sickness and disease among the people.
  • We’ve seen him restore hearing to the deaf and open the eyes of the blind.
  • We’ve witnessed his authority over demonic spirits as he set people free.
  • We’ve seen him feed the multitudes and command the winds and the waves.
  • We entered the room with him and Peter and James and John to witness his power over death as he raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead.
  • We’ve heard him teach with authority as no man ever had.
  • We have also accompanied the disciples as Jesus taught them what it means to be a disciple — what it means to be a Christian — denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following him.

Now as we come to Mark 10, we are confronted with the question of how being a disciple impacts our interpersonal relationships, specifically, relationships between husband and wife, and God’s will for marriage.

The Christian life is not simply about believing in God or believing that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. Even the demons believe that (James 2:19). The Christian life is all of that, but it is also a life of obedience to the commands of Christ. That means that the Christian is a person who has been so changed by the power of Christ, that he delights to do the will of God. He not only says that Jesus is Lord; he demonstrates that Jesus is his Lord by the way that he lives. This is of utmost importance because over and over again, the Word of God tells us that we are to obey his commands and pursue holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).

In Mark 10, Jesus declares the will of God concerning marriage. What he says is astounding in its impact. What he teaches in this passage cuts right across cultural norms and expectations. What Jesus taught about marriage and divorce is as astonishing to us today as it was to the Jews. So I invite your careful consideration of this most important passage.

1.      The Question: Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife? (10:1-2)

Mark 10:1-2 ESV And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again. And again, as was his custom, he taught them. 2 And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

1.1.     The Question (10:2)

That is a question that we might never ask. “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”[1]

In Jewish culture, as in much of the world today, it was assumed that a man had the right to divorce his wife. The only question was upon what basis a man could divorce his wife. What were the legitimate grounds for putting away one’s wife?

This was a debate in Jewish society. Some argued that adultery alone was sufficient grounds for divorce. If a wife committed adultery, the man had every right to send her away. Others argued that adultery was not necessary: a man could divorce his wife for any and every reason. This is how the question is put in Matthew:

Matthew 19:3 NIVO Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

There is a famous passage in the Mishnah which explains many of the Jewish beliefs. It speaks of two schools of interpretation, the School of Shammai, and the School of Hillel:

The School of Shammai say: A man may not divorce his wife unless he has found unchastity in her, for it is written, “Because he hath found in her indecency in anything.” And the School of Hillel say: [He may divorce her] even if she spoiled a dish for him, for it is written, “Because he hath found in her indecency in anything.” R. Akiba says: Even if he found another fairer than she, for it is written, “And it shall be if she find no favour in his eyes” (m. Git. 9: 10)[2]

The Jews and Jewish law agreed that divorce was allowed. It was only a question of what allowed a man to divorce his wife. There were different opinions based on one phrase in the Hebrew Bible, the phrase “because he has found some indecency in her” (Deuteronomy 24:1). One school defined indecency as unchastity, some sexual impurity. Another school of interpretation said that it referred to anything that the husband might consider indecent. And then there was another rabbi who picked up on the phrase “if then she finds no favor in his eyes” to allow a man to divorce his wife because he found someone prettier! Three reasons for divorce: sexual impurity, a spoiled dinner, or a prettier woman in the neighborhood!

1.2.     The Context (10:1)

Both Mark and Matthew tell us that the Pharisees asked Jesus this question about divorce “in order to test him.” They did not ask Jesus if it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife because they seriously wanted to know the will of God concerning the matter. No, they already had their minds made up and were not interested in seriously considering the issue. They knew what they wanted to believe and simply wanted to trap Jesus with the question.

It is interesting that Mark tells us that this question took place in “the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan” (Mark 10:1). This is the region ruled by Herod Antipas. Herod had seduced his brother’s wife and convinced her to divorce her husband Philip. John the Baptist had denounced this marriage between Herod and Herodias, declaring that it was not lawful for Herod to have his brother’s wife (Mark 6:18). John had lost his head over this question. You could get your head chopped off for answering this question the wrong way!

What would Jesus say? Perhaps the Pharisees thought that the question concerning divorce would take care of the Jesus problem once and for all.

In any case, it is certain that the Pharisees suspected Jesus of holding a position on marriage that was different from their own. The Pharisees held to a man’s right to divorce his wife, whether for adultery or other reasons, and they believed that their position had basis in the Law of Moses. Their purpose was to trap Jesus, to put him into a position where he would compromise the authority of the Torah, the Law of Moses. They intended to “maintain a permissive divorce polity — and the more permissive the better.”[3]

Schürer summarizes the Jewish position on divorce thus: “divorce was relatively easy in those days and the Pharisees and rabbis intended to keep it so.”[4]

For the Pharisees, marriage was “a disposable contractual arrangement.” It was a temporary arrangement so long as it was convenient for the man.

The attitude of the Pharisees…

reminds us of a person who has just been granted a bank loan and then asks under what conditions he might be absolved from repaying it.[5]

Wives had little rights in Jewish society. Marriage was not for the mutual benefit of both the husband and the wife. Marriage was for the man, providing him the woman that he needed to have children and maintain the family line.

Jesus overturns the male-dominated view of marriage, showing the importance of the marital union, harmony, and love as part of the new creation in the kingdom of God.

1.3.     Answer a Question with a Question (10:3-5)

The Pharisees have laid a trap for Jesus, so they think, and Jesus does what he frequently does when confronted by his enemies. He turns the tables on them. They asked him a question, so he answered by asking them a question. They asked Jesus if it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife.

Mark 10:3 ESV He answered them, “What did Moses command you?”

They came to put Jesus on the spot. Now they are on the spot. Jesus asks them a simply Bible question. They are the Pharisees. Surely they should know the answer. But no. They do not answer the right question. Jesus asked them what Moses commanded them. They answer not what Moses had commanded, but what Moses allowed:

Mark 10:4 ESV They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.”

Wrong answer! Jesus will give the right answer in the following verses, but first he responds to their incorrect answer.

Notice the hardness of their heart that is expressed in their very answer: “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.”

They are making reference to Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Deuteronomy 24 was all about damage control. It was about limiting the sin and making a man think twice before dismissing his wife.

  • A husband had to give a reason for divorcing his wife, and that was the debate among the Jews, whether any reason was sufficient or “unchastity” was the only valid reason for divorce.
  • The husband had to give his wife a certificate of divorce showing that she was free from her husband.
  • However, the woman was “defiled” if she remarried.
  • The first husband could never under any circumstances take back his first wife after having married another.

Deuteronomy 24:4 clearly states,

Deuteronomy 24:4 ESV then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the LORD. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.

The original intention of Deuteronomy 24:1-4 was not to encourage divorce, but to limit the damage done by hard unforgiving hearts. But the Jews had flipped the intention of the passage and were using it as a pretext for divorce: “If a man finds some indecency in her…”

Jesus confronts the Pharisees with their sin:

Mark 10:5 ESV And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.

“The divine intention for marriage cannot be determined from a text about divorce.”[6]


“The divine intention for marriage cannot be determined from a text about divorce.” 
Divorce is the result of cardiosclerosis, the hardening of the heart. God is a God of forgiveness and he calls us to forgive one another. Not only does he call us to forgive; he requires it. At the conclusion of what we call the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6, we read,

Matthew 6:14-15 ESV For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

We are not to be hardhearted and unforgiving:

Ephesians 4:32 ESV Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

We are to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:33). We are to love our enemies (Luke 6:27). Surely husbands and wives can obey the command to love each other (Ephesians 5:25, 28).

Colossians 3:13 ESV bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

2.      God’s Plan for Marriage (10:6-9)

Jesus had asked the Pharisees what Moses had commanded them. The Pharisees gave the wrong answer. They told not what Moses had commanded, but what Moses has permitted them because of the hardness of their hearts.

Now Jesus gives the Pharisees the correct answer to his question by taking them back to the beginning of creation and revealing God’s plan for marriage.

Mark 10:6-9 ESV But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Jesus takes the Pharisees back to the first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis, chapter 2. Genesis was one of the five books that were written by Moses. We find in Genesis 2 what Moses commanded concerning marriage, and what he commanded reveals God’s intention for marriage.

2.1.     The Foundation

Mark 10:6 ESV But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’

2.1.1.  Marriage Has Its Foundation in Creation

We can learn so much from this one sentence: “from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’” When did God make us male and female? In the beginning of creation. That tells us that man is not the result of millions of years of evolution. God created man in his own image on the sixth day of creation: “from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.”

We were created in the image of God. We are created for fellowship, just as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have been in eternal fellowship, loving one another through all eternity. God created us with a sense of morality, a sense of right and wrong, a desire for justice. He created us with the ability to communicate through the spoken and written word, and he has communicated his will for us through the prophets in the holy Scriptures. And in Genesis 2, we find God’s will for marriage.

2.1.2.  Marriage Is a Male-Female Relationship

God made us male and female. Male and female is God’s idea.

Genesis 2:18 NET The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion for him who corresponds to him.”

In defining the nature of marriage, Jesus takes us back to the original design: God made us male and female. There is a correspondence between male and female. In taking woman from the side of man, God made man “a helper fit for him” (ESV). Male and female fit each other.

In Matthew’s account in Matthew 19, Jesus says to the Pharisees,

Matthew 19:4 ESV … “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,

“Have you not read?” Do you not know the Scriptures? Is it not clear to you? Is it not obvious that God has made us male and female? Is it not obvious that marriage is between a male and a female?

Marriage is the very first institution. The first man and the first woman were married. Before there was any church, before there were any employers, before there was any government, there was marriage. Marriage was not defined by the church, or by employers, or be the government. None of those institutions existence when the first marriage took place. God gave us marriage and God himself defined marriage.

Were Adam and Eve really married? Yes, they certainly were, for we read in

Genesis 2:25 ESV And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

Seven times in the first four chapters of Genesis, Eve is called Adam’s wife (Genesis 2:24-25; 3:8, 17, 20-21; 4:1). And twice, Adam is called Eve’s “husband” (Genesis 3:6, 16).

Marriage is one of God’s gifts to mankind.

2.1.3.  Marriage Changes Our Orientation

Jesus said that since God made us male and female, there is something we must do:

Mark 10:6-7 ESV But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife,

First, Marriage Is the Time to Leave

There is a new orientation. There is a new direction. The man is no longer oriented toward his father and mother. He grows up. He leaves home. Yes, he leaves his mommy and daddy!

The Fifth Commandment was that we are to honor our father and our mother. This is second only to honoring God, but Jesus here declares that the husband’s “allegiance to his wife in the union of marriage surpasses his allegiance to father and mother, making marriage second only to obedience to God in sacredness.”[7]

The commandment from the beginning was that a man is to leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife. You are not married to your parents. Many marriages fail at this point. Instead of obeying the Word of God and leaving his parents, the man brings his wife into his parents’ home. Rather than trying to please his wife (1 Corinthians 7:33), he seeks to please his parents. The wife never gets the respect and consideration that she is supposed to have as the man’s wife because the man is torn between his parents and his wife. God commands the man to leave his parents and to establish a new home. It’s time to grow up. It’s time to be man. It’s time to leave home.

Second, Marriage Is the Time to Cleave — Hold Fast

In holding fast to his wife, the husband orients himself to his wife. Marriage is not about me. It is not about my fulfillment. Marriage orients me toward my spouse. Marriage teaches us how to love. The Apostle Paul quotes this very verse in Ephesians:

Ephesians 5:31 ESVTherefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

Three times in this passage of Ephesians, Paul tells us that as husbands, we are to love our wives.

  1. We are to love our wives as Christ love the church and gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25).
  2. We are to love our wives as our own bodies, nourishing and cherishing them (Ephesians 5:28).
  3. We are to love our wives as ourselves (Ephesians 5:33).

How does love behave? A man who loves his wife, how does he behave?

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

Romans 13:10 tells us that “Love does no wrong.” Love is not violent. Love does not mistreat. There is no room for wife abuse in the Christian home. The wife is not the husband’s child for him to discipline. The wife is not the husband’s property for him to mistreat or do as he pleases.

1 Peter 3:7 ESV Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

Beware, husband! If you mistreat your wife, God will take her side!

Third, Marriage Is a New Creation

Mark 10:8 ESV and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh.

The two become one. They are no longer two, but one. This is God’s idea, not man’s. God made us male and female, and it was God’s plan that in the context of holy matrimony the two become one. It is a new creation and is an image of Christ and the Church, the Bride of Christ.

What About Polygamy?

Notice again that God says that the two shall become one flesh. Some will argue for polygamy, that a man can have more than one wife. They will argue for polygamy on the basis of the Old Testament patriarchs like Jacob. They will even say that we need to restore the practice of the patriarchs because some of them had several wives. Since the patriarchs set the precedence of polygamy and had several wives, they say that men today should be able to have several wives.

If we looked to the lives of the patriarchs to establish a precedent for how we live today, we would also

  • take concubines like Abraham (Genesis 25:6) and Jacob (Genesis 35:22),
  • frequent prostitutes like Judah (Genesis 38:15-16),
  • deceive our parents like Jacob (Genesis 27:24), and
  • kill our enemies like Simeon and Levi (Genesis 49:5).

The Bible records what happened. But sinful men — even the patriarchs — did many things that were not the will of God.

As we read through the accounts of polygamous marriages in the Bible, it is clear that they were characterized by jealousy and conflict, every single one of them. Let the reader understand!

Jesus does not take us back to the patriarchs; he takes us back to the beginning. We do not look to the patriarchs to find God’s plan for marriage; we do not look to the example of fallen men to get our direction; we do as Jesus said, we go back to the beginning.

2.1.4.  God Is the Lord of Marriage

Here in Mark 10:9, we find the greatest difference between Jesus and the Pharisees. Jewish culture gave man the right to divorce his wife. Man was the lord of the marital relationship. He controlled it and could divorce his wife if he were not pleased.

But Jesus shows us that it is neither the man nor the woman who controls marriage. Rather, it is “God, who is the lord of marriage.”[8]

Mark 10:9 ESV What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Marriage is not some contractual agreement between a man and a woman. It is not even an arrangement that is determined by the society or the culture at large. It is God himself who has instituted marriage and who joins a man and woman together in marriage. The man has no right to separate it. The woman has no right to separate it. And no external force has the right to separate what God has joined together.

3.      Jesus Summarizes His Teaching

The Jews assumed that divorce and remarriage was permitted in certain cases. Some thought that it was permitted in the case of adultery. Others thought that divorce and remarriage was allowed if the husband was no longer pleased with his wife.

Who did Jesus agree with? Neither. Jesus tells us that marriage is for life. One man. One woman. For life.

Mark 10:10-12 ESV And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

Jesus tells us that divorce and remarriage is adultery, regardless of whether it is initiated by the man or the woman.

3.1.     Counsel to Those in Difficulty

  1. If you are separated, the Apostle Paul summarizes the Lord’s teaching with two options: (1) stay single, or (2) be reconciled to your spouse (1 Corinthians 7:10-11).
  2. If you have been through the pain of a divorce and are now remarried, you need to know that there is forgiveness with God. Jesus tells us in Mark 3:28 that all manner of sins will be forgiven.

1 John 1:9 ESV If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Make the best of your present marriage (1 Corinthians 7:17-24).

3.2.     Counsel to Singles

  1. Only marry someone who loves God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. Make sure that you have God’s approval and blessing.
  2. Don’t expect too much from your spouse. Remember that marriage is the union of two sinners, not two angels.
  3. Let holiness be the goal of your marriage.

3.3.     Final word to parents and families

Do not make it difficult for committed Christian young people to get married. Do not put terrible financial burdens on them. Do not put obstacles in their way. Do not sell your daughters like property. You give your Christian daughter to a Christian man who is worthy, who will lay his life down for her.

See also “Gospel of Mark”:

 


[1] In Mark we simply read, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” but this is surely an abbreviation for “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every cause?” just as we speak of the Second Coming (of Jesus) or civil rights (for minorities) or equal rights (for women). Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 5542-5543). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[2] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Kindle Locations 5529-5532).

[3] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Kindle Locations 5549-5551).

[4] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Kindle Locations 5549-5551).

[5] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Kindle Locations 5553-5554).

[6] Edwards Jr., James R.. The Gospel according to Mark . Eerdmans Publishing Company: 2009.

[7] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Kindle Locations 5593-5594).

[8] Edwards Jr., James R.. The Gospel according to Mark . Eerdmans Publishing Company: 2009.

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John 02:01-11, “Believing”

English: Icon of the wedding at Cana

English: Icon of the wedding at Cana (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”

11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him (John 2:1-11 ESV).

BELIEVE

What do you believe? Does it matter what you believe? If, for example, you believe that all religions lead to God, will that make it true? Is truth a matter of opinion, or does it remain the same whether or not we believe it? If we are sincere, can we be wrong?

A few years ago I took a flight from Port Vila to Brisbane. When I arrived at Brisbane, I was to take a train to another terminal to catch another flight to Sydney. I found the station where I was to board the train and confirmed it with the woman at the counter who told me that the train would arrive in two minutes. Sure enough, in two minutes a train arrived and I got on to go to the other terminal where I would catch the plane for Sydney. After some time, I began to see signs for the Golden Beach near Brisbane. Another train passenger told me that I was on the wrong train going the wrong direction. I had believed that I was simply transferring to another airport terminal. I was sincere. But I was sincerely wrong.

Pastor Rick Warren says, “You can be sincere, but you can be sincerely wrong. The fact is, it takes more than sincerity to make it in life. It takes truth.”

Many people put a lot of emphasis on belief. Many books are written about believing. Motivational speakers talk about the power of belief. We are told

  • to believe in ourselves,
  • to believe in our potential,
  • to believe in belief.

We are told that believing is more important than what you believe. We are told that we have the power to create our own reality by believing. Even Christians get caught up in the false teaching that we should believe in our ability to create reality by our thoughts and words and belief and faith.

Is that what the Bible is talking about when it talks about faith and believing? Is our faith and hope in ourselves or is our hope in Jesus?

SONG: MY HOPE IS JESUS, ADRIAN LEWIS, HILLSONG – 4:12 (14 second lead)

JOHN, THE GOSPEL OF BELIEF

Today we want to continue looking at the Gospel According to John. This Gospel has been called “The Gospel of Belief.” John’s Gospel is the Gospel of belief because he emphasizes believing more than Matthew, Mark, and Luke combined. Those three gospels combined only mention believing 35 times, 65 times if we add the noun “faith.” But John uses the verb “to believe” 98 times. In fact, he writes this entire Gospel so that we would believe.

But John’s purpose is not simply to encourage us to believe. He wants us to believe something specific. His summary statement of purpose is found in 20:30-31,

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:30-31 ESV).

It has been said that this gospel is

  1. A selective gospel: Jesus did many other signs which are not written in this book.
  2. An attested gospel: Jesus did these signs in the presence of the disciples.
  3. A purposeful gospel: It has a purpose: These signs are written so that you may believe.
  4. An interpretive gospel: The signs signify that Jesus is the Christ.
  5. A definitive gospel: Jesus is the Son of God.
  6. An effective gospel: by believing you may have life in his name.

So John’s purpose is not simply to encourage faith or belief, he wants us to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Is that important? Is it important that we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the one and only Son of God? John says that this is the way that we may have life, and the life that he is talking about is eternal life which is nothing less than knowing God and His Son Jesus Christ, both now and for eternity.

This is what Jesus said in his prayer to his Father in John 17:3,

And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (John 17:3 ESV).

Eternal life begins now. As John says in his first letter, 1 John 1:3,

that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3 ESV).

The Truth

Belief is not enough. Sincerity is not enough. We must believe the truth:

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32 ESV).

Is it important that we believe the truth? Absolutely!

“I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins” (John 8:24 ESV).

Knowing the truth, believing the truth, and living according to the truth is absolutely essential.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him (John 3:36 ESV).

Yes, John wants us to believe something specific.

  • That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world” (John 11:27 ESV).
  • That the Father sent him (John 11:42 ESV).
  • That Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in him (John 14:11 ESV).
  • That Jesus is God (John 13:19 ESV).

Belief alone is not enough. Belief in belief is empty. Faith in faith is meaningless. Our faith must have an object. We must believe some thing. We must believe the truth.

Today truth has been relativized. People believe that there are many different truths. You have your truth and I have my truth. What is true for you is not necessarily true for me. What is true for me is not necessarily true for you. Whatever works for me is true for me, and whatever works for you is true for you.

But that does not work! It does not work in math, or accounting, or science, or physics, or any other field of study. 2 plus 2 is 4, even if we believe that it is something else. If you go to the bank believing that 2 plus 2 is 10, and that you believe that you have 10,000 vatu in your account, you may be sincere, but the bank will tell you that you are sincerely wrong. Airplanes are carefully constructed with strict adherence to the laws of aerodynamics so that the plane will actually fly and carry its passengers safely from one place to another.

So why should we think we can have our own private truth about God who, the Bible says, cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18)? Why should we think that it matters little or not at all what we believe about Jesus who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6)?

  • Belief in false gods is not enough.
  • Believing the wrong things about God and about His Son leads to false worship.
  • Sincerity is not enough.

Believing In Jesus Christ

And John has written so that we might know the truth and believe the truth. John wants us to believe the truth about Jesus Christ. And yet, he wants us to believe more than that. He wants us to believe in Jesus Christ. In other words, it is not simply a question of believing certain truths or facts about Jesus Christ, though that is important. John is calling for personal faith in Jesus Christ, a personal knowledge of Christ, entering into a personal relationship, communion, and fellowship with Christ.

He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:11-13 ESV).

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God (John 3:14-18 ESV).

Seven Signs

John is calling for active faith, active belief in and commitment to the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God whom God has designated as the only means of salvation. So John gives seven signs performed by Jesus Christ that point to who he is.

Now some people are always looking for signs. They see a sign and want to see another one, never understanding that a sign is meant to sign-ify something. A sign has sign-ificance—meaning—because it points beyond itself. When you see a sign on the road indicating the distance to your destination, you don’t stop and camp out at the sign. As you are going up toward Panginisu, you will see a sign for Port Vila that says 109km. If your destination is Port Vila, you don’t stop when you arrive at the sign. You keep going because the sign has told you vital information that you needed to know.

John has recorded seven signs that tell us vital information about Jesus. They tell us that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

  1. Jesus changes the water into wine (John 2:1-11).
  2. He healed the official’s son who was at the point of death (John 4:47-54).
  3. He healed the man who had been lame for 38 years (5:5).
  4. He multiplied five loaves and two fishes to feed the multitude of 5,000 plus women and children (John 6:1-15).
  5. Jesus walked on water (John 6:16-21).
  6. Jesus opened the eyes of the man born blind (John 9).
  7. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11).

John also records seven great “I am” statements made by Jesus:

  1. I am the bread of life that came down from heaven (6:35, 48, 51). He is the source of life.
  2. I am the light of the world (8:12; 9:5).
  3. I am the door of the sheepfold (10:7, 9).
  4. I am the good shepherd (10:11, 14). He lays his life down for his sheep.
  5. I am the resurrection and the life (11:25). He would rise from the dead.
  6. I am the way, the truth, and the life (14:6). He is the only way to the Father.
  7. I am the true vine (15:1).

John’s purpose is to lead us to believe in Jesus Christ. But what does it mean to believe in Jesus Christ? It means that we understand who he is, that we put our trust in him, and that we follow him as his disciples.

  1. We understand who he is. John’s opening verse tells us who Christ is: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John tells us in 5:18 that every time that Jesus called God his own Father, he was making himself “equal with God.” Jesus tells Philip, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Thomas, seeing the resurrected Christ, calls him, “My Lord and my God.”
  2. We must trust him for our salvation: He is the only way to the Father.
  3. We show our love to him by obeying him:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments (John 14:15 ESV).

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me (John 14:23-24 ESV).

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love (John 15:10 ESV).

THE FIRST SIGN

In John chapter 2, we come to the first miracle that Jesus performed. John uses the word sign instead of miracle because he wants us to see that the miracles of Jesus were signs of who he was and is. This passage concludes with these words:

This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him (John 2:11 ESV).

The Setting: A Wedding

In chapter 1, we heard the testimony of John the Baptist, that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Andrew and John, two of the Baptist’s disciples, heard his testimony and followed Jesus. Andrew then announced to his brother Peter that they had found the Messiah. Jesus found Philip, and Philip found Nathanael. So at the end of chapter 1, Jesus already has a group of disciples. Now we read in chapter 2 that

…there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration (John 2:1-2 NLT).

Jesus’ presence at the wedding was his seal of approval on marriage. Sometimes I am asked if the marriage between unbelievers is really a marriage or if new converts should get married again. Let’s be clear about this. Marriage is God’s gift not only to Christians, but to humanity. You don’t have to be a Christian believer for your marriage to be valid. Marriage is a gift from God. Human marriage is a reflection of the true marriage that will take place when Christ returns for the Church which is his bride. The Apostle Paul speaks to this in Ephesians 5:31-32,

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:31-32 ESV).

So Jesus and his disciples were invited to the wedding celebration in Cana.

The Situation: A Shortage of Wine and a Mother’s Concern

The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’ mother [who as also there] told him, “They have no more wine.”

4 “Dear woman, that’s not our problem,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come” (John 2:3-4 NLT).

Literally Jesus said, “Woman, what to me and to you?” which means “Woman, what has this concern of yours to do with me?”

What we see here is a mother’s concern, but not just any mother. This is the mother of Jesus. It was to Mary, the mother of Jesus, that the angel Gabriel had appeared telling her that as a virgin she would bear a child who would be very great, who would be the Holy One of God, the Son of the Most High, the Son of God. His name would be Jesus, which means Savior, and he would reign as King over Israel forever.

As a virgin, Mary gave birth to that child. She and Joseph, being warned in a dream, had fled King Herod’s wrath by night. They had returned from Egypt and seen Jesus grow in stature and wisdom and in favor with God and man. They had seen him at the age of 12, amazing the elders in the temple. Mary had deeply contemplated all these things in her heart. She had watched. She had waited. Perhaps she had heard the testimony of John the Baptist. She saw that Jesus was gathering disciples. Now at the wedding, the wine supply had run out. This seemed to be the time:

“They have no more wine,” she told him.

Mary knew that the prophets Elijah and Elisha had worked miracles to supply oil in time of need. Surely this was the time for Jesus to supply the need, to manifest himself so that everyone would know who he was. Perhaps also she wanted to be vindicated against those who had accused her of immorality, who had said that she could not be a virgin when she was pregnant with Jesus.

“Woman, what have I to do with you? My hour has not yet come.”

Jesus does not address Mary as “Mother,” but as “Woman.” This is a term of respect that Jesus used on occasion when addressing women. But Jesus is here putting distance between himself and his mother. It is not her responsibility to determine when or where or how he is to manifest himself. That is not her position. She must learn that she can no longer approach him as his mother. She must come to him, not as his mother, but as his disciple.

His hour had not yet come. The hour that Jesus was talking about was his hour to return to his Father (John 13:1).

Mary no longer presumes to tell Jesus what to do. She simply speaks to the servants: “Do whatever he tells you.”

Six Stone Jars and a Sign

Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons (John 2:6 NLT).

That’s about 100 liters. These stone water jars were probably used to wash certain utensils and the hands of the guests (cf. 3:25). The “water represents the old order of Jewish law and custom, which Jesus was to replace with something better.”[1]

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17 ESV).

Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.”

When the jars had been filled, 8 he said, “Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.” So the servants followed his instructions (John 2:7-8 NLT).

Jesus did not touch the water jars or the water. He simply gave instructions which the servants followed:

  • Fill the jars with water.
  • Now dip some out.
  • Take it to the master of ceremonies.

When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. 10 “A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!” (John 2:9-10 NLT).

Notice how discreet Jesus is in this miracle. He does not draw attention to himself. There is no big announcement as to what he has done. The master of ceremonies did not even know where the wine had come from. Jesus had not given in to the temptation to make a big display and to show himself.

In Luke 4:9-11, Satan had tempted Jesus to throw himself down from the pinnacle of the temple so that the angels would carry him so that he would not even hurt his foot on a stone. “Do something dramatic! Show yourself!”

In John 7:4, the unbelieving brothers of Jesus tell him, “If you can do such wonderful things show yourself to the world!”

Here in John 2, the mother of Jesus had suggested that he do something spectacular, that it was time for people to know who he really was.

But Jesus responded to the need in a way that would not draw attention to himself. He performed the sign without even touching the jars or the water. He drew no attention to himself so that only the servants and Jesus’ disciples knew that the wine had been water. They were the only ones who knew that Jesus had turned the water into wine.

It takes great power and great intelligence to turn water into wine. With all our advanced technology today, we still have no idea how to turn water into wine. Yet, all around us is evidence of God’s great power and intelligence. God is continuously turning water into grapes and oranges and bananas and papayas and tomatoes and avocados and mangoes. All around us are plants—factories, if you will—which turn water into every kind of fruit and vegetable. It takes great intelligence to know how to do that. And yet this time, Jesus did it without even using a grape vine.

Jesus did this as the first of his miraculous signs, in Cana of Galilee. In this way he revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him (John 2:11 NET).

He manifested his glory. That’s what we read in the Prologue, the introduction of this Gospel:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14 ESV).

The glory that Jesus manifested was the glory of the only Son of the Father. And his disciples believed in him. They believed that he was the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

… these [miraculous signs] are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:31 ESV).

SONG: CHRIS TOMLIN – KING OF GLORY

Thank you for tuning in to FM 107. This has been a ministry of Joy Bible Institute. You can visit our website at www.joybible.wordpress.com. Our prayer is that the joy of the Lord would be your strength.